Awestruck! That would be the one word I would use to describe Innsbruck. All around, towering over you, are the mountains. The jagged rock spires of the Nordkette range are incredibly majestic and are your backdrop for this beautiful alpine town. Being surrounded by ski slopes during the winter and mountainous hiking trails during the summer makes this a must-see destination for any adventurous traveler. There are only three places who have held the honour of hosting the Olympics more than once, and Innsbruck is one of them. Not adventurous? No problem, this town has enough charm and history to capture anyone’s interest. Read on and you will discover why.
Innsbruck, known as the capital of the Alps, dates back as far as the 1100s. It was then, when a bridge was built over the river allowing access to either side of the Inn River. So that is how it got its name, Innsbruck when translated, means the bridge over the inn.
Today, there are 12 bridges that connect Innsbruck’s 20 districts. The most popular bridge – with locals and tourists alike – is Innbrücke. It bears the city’s coat of arms and is a much-photographed landmark.
Innsbruck offers visitors a fairy tale old town (or Altstadt) which is chock-full of 13th to 14th century Baroque and Gothic architecture, museums, galleries, shops, restaurants and cafes. The colourful buildings in the old town are decorated with wall murals and the most creative and intricate metal signs hanging above the shop doors, all to indicate what lies inside. Strolling through these attractive streets and alleyways is a definite must.
The Impressive Buildings in the Altstadt
One of the main attractions in the old town is The Golden Roof (or Goldenes Dachl). Its tiny balcony with a roof, was to serve as a royal box to enjoy the square below and is adorned with 2,657 fire-gilded copper tiles that glisten in the sun. It is one of the most unique architectures I have seen in Europe, and of course, pictures never really do it justice!
The building beside The Golden Roof is Stadtturm. It is a medieval structure built in the 1400s and was used as a prison. Today, it is a watchtower and is definitely a standout building with its contrasting orangey-red walls.
The building directly across from The Golden Roof was my favourite. The impressive Helbling Haus, is one of the finest and most elaborate Baroque buildings in town. The intricate details are simply amazing, aren’t they?
And, lastly the Gothic Hofkirche (or court church) was built in 1553 as a memorial to the Emporer’s grandfather, Maximillian I. The real showstopper is the interior, full of wonderful Renaissance and Gothic details.
The Impressive Maria-Teresia Street
After spending some time in the Altstadt, why not take a stroll down Maria-Theresia Street (or Maria-Theresien Strasse) to the Triumphal Arch. And, in doing so you will gaze upon some of the most well-preserved century homes and buildings on either side. It is such a lively street with some of Innsbruck’s best shops, as well as, Rathaus Galarie, an indoor shopping center that is light, bright and airy.
If you ever tire of walking and still want to see more of the city, take the cable car called the Hungerburgbahn, which will come through the tunnel, over the bridge and through the main part of the city. What a relaxing and charming way to see the beautiful views of the city.
Lastly, you cannot visit Innsbruck without indulging in one of Austria’s most famous chocolate cake, Sachertorte, filled with apricot jam and a shot of rum. This rich treat, served with a strong coffee, in a tiny café is the best way to round out your day of sightseeing.
So whether you are the adventurous type who wants to take a break from the plethora of sports activities in the surrounding area or not, Innsbruck is a great place to visit, even if it is just for the day.